Cape File Snake

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Is the Cape File Snake right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Lapi File Snake, Southern File Snake

Scientific name: Mehelya (Goniontophis) capensis

The basics:
The Cape File Snake, shy and secretive, is rarely seen in the trade but beginning to get some attention due to its unique body form, scalation, and feeding habits.

The Cape File Snake is found in Central and Southern Africa, from Natal and Cameroon south to Namibia and Somalia, where it frequents lightly-wooded savannas and forest edges.

Appearance / health:
This very unique snake is distinguished by a noticeably triangular body shape, raised, “file-like” scales, and the pink skin that is visible between them. Most are gray, olive, or brown with a yellow or white vertebral stripe, but bluish and purplish-brown specimens are sometimes seen. Adults can reach 165 cm (5 ft, 5 in) in length.

Cape File Snakes are considered to be a delicate species. Most in the trade are wild caught, and host large populations of internal and external parasites.

Behavior / temperament:
Cape File Snakes are quite shy, and may be stressed by handling. As with all snakes, they are capable of biting when disturbed and should be handled carefully.

An average adult can be housed in a 55 - 75 gallon aquarium. Cypress mulch, eucalyptus bark and similar materials are preferable to newspapers as substrates, since most are ill-at-ease if they cannot burrow. Cape File Snakes prefer high humidity levels but must have access to dry areas as well, lest fungal skin infections develop. Those that refuse to bask above ground may be better served by a sub-tank heat pad. Ambient temperature: 78-82 F; Basking temperature: 90-95 F.

Cape File Snakes feed largely upon snakes (including mambas and other venomous species), lizards and toads, with some reports of rodents being taken on occasion. Captives do well on rodent-based diets, but must often be tempted to feed via scenting with a snake or lizard.

Wild females produce 1-2 annual clutches of 5-15 eggs; captive breeding has not been well documented.

Written by Frank Indiviglio

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